“How do you do it?” I exclaimed, utterly flabbergasted. “How do your kids do all the things?”
I was talking to a friend of mine, who was telling me about the daily carpool process she and her family underwent most evenings after school. With multiple kids signed up for multiple sports and recreational activities, they were always on the go; and busy as they were, they were all excellent students, well-mannered, and very well behaved around adults and other peers. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
She shrugged. “You just make it work,” she said.
In comparison to her family (and many, many others I know), my two kids don’t have much going on after school. They are Scouts (Boy and Girl, respectively); one has a weekly violin lesson and the other attends tutoring for math twice a week. That seems plenty enough – and for us, it is. But as I talked with friends and observed my kids’ classmates, we seemed to be on the lighter side of normal, and I became increasingly self-conscious about it.
The phrase “We don’t do many extracurricular activities” took on a life of its own, and changed its meaning depending on whom I was talking to. If one of my kids didn’t do well on a quiz, for example, and I was talking with their teacher about it, that phrase would mean “It’s not like he was so busy with afterschool activities that he didn’t study.” If I was talking to a friend or another school parent, that phrase would mean “I wish we did as many extracurriculars as everyone else does, because then we wouldn’t feel so left out.” Then the person I’d talk to would nod their head and complain about how crazy everything felt, and how exhausted they all were, in an effort, perhaps, to help me not feel so bad about the fact that my kids are not like most of the kids at their school.
And I did feel bad about it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a parent that looks down upon a bevy of extracurriculars. I think there is a great benefit to after-school clubs and participating on sports teams. But when it comes to the mental health of my family, it’s the best choice for us to not have the kids do more than what they do now. I had to come to grips with the fact that every family is different, and no matter the pressure we may feel to do more or to overextend, the health of our own particular families have to come first.
So my family did what everyone else has to do – made it work. Making it work for us was realizing that in this stage of my family’s life, this is what after school time looks like. Making it work is feeling the disappointment that we can’t do as much as other people, or maybe we’ll miss out on this social opportunity or that sports team, and being okay with that disappointment.
It’s also knowing that not everything works for everyone all of the time. Discovering what makes it work for your family is particular to you, even if other people may find it strange or unmanageable or difficult.
Here’s to making it work for you in this new year!
Until next time, be well!
I know that around this time of year, it’s normal for there to be a little extra hustle-and-bustle. The holidays are definitely on the way; and even though Halloween was not that long ago, the radio stations in town are already gearing up for their round-the-clock Christmas music. There are ingredients to buy and meals to prepare; gifts need to be thought of, bought, and wrapped; and this particular whirlwind is set into motion until the very last bit of confetti is swept away on New Year’s Day.
But this year, to me, feels more hustly-and-bustly than usual, and not just because I heard my first Christmas carol over the speaker at Kohl’s in the middle of October. It could be the current emotional climate that surrounds us, darkened by the recent (and not so recent) international conflicts occuring right now. It could be the swinging back to pre-Covid-levels of activity that has flared right back up in families’ homes. It could be the increasing pressure to get things “back to normal” after not having been normal for so long, or dealing with the fallout of that abnormal time.
Maybe you feel like you’re in a space where everything is just whizzing by, and you feel sad, really, because you were looking forward to this time of year all year long, and it seems like you’ll just miss it.
That’s just how I feel too; and to be honest, it’s a little scary, because like most people who struggle with anxiety, I don’t do well with overwhelm. When things pile up, my anxiety goes into overdrive and it takes me much longer to get much done at all, much less the things that really need to be done.
So what’s going on the top of my to-do list? Making sure I have the tools I need to break the “overwhelm cycle.” Not in a syrupy, all-about-me kind of way, but more in a practical, if-Mama’s-not-happy-then-nobody’s-happy kind of way. What works for me? I tend to do best with planning, organizing, getting rest and even (ugh) drinking plenty of water. I’m a religious person, so I take time to get my faith life situated. I also like to take some time – even if it’s just seconds! – to lift my head and look around to actually see my surroundings.
What works for you? What brings you peace? You may not have time (or the ability) to drop everything in this busy season to exclusively do those things, but maybe there’s a way to work them into your day.
The season, as exhilarating and lovely as it can be, will also not last forever. The new year will come, with all its joys and sorrows. Take the time you need for yourself now to help ease that transition for you! You are so, so worth it.
Until next time, be well!
Did you have a favorite hobby growing up? I don’t think many people collect postage stamps or baseball cards anymore, but maybe you’re a collector of something. One of my brothers collected Snapple bottles once he was finished with them – and learned the hard way about what happens when you leave a lot of unrinsed Snapple bottles in your room. (What happens is you get ants. Lots of ants.) I collected Bone comic books and, for a while, comic book trading cards. (It helped that my brother worked at a comic book store.)
Did you know that it’s okay to have a hobby as an adult – and not only that, but it’s actually really good for you? Whether you’re into working with your hands (knitting, crocheting, woodcarving), using technology (HAM radio operating, creating a computer program), or getting artistic (painting, drawing, firing up the pottery wheel), you’ll be reaping the benefits.
Doing a hobby can be relaxing and meditative, and can take your mind off of worries and anxieties for a time. (It’s hard to both obsess about that embarrassing text you sent and count stitches on a knitting needle at the same time!) You also can cultivate skills that may be useful later in life. (I’m not saying that knowing how to operate a HAM radio would really be useful in a zombie apocalypse, but I’m also not not saying it, either.) It’s also helpful to know and use skills that have been -or are in danger of – being lost to time.
And now that Spring is here, it’s also a great time of year to take up an outdoor hobby. Hiking is a great one, as is birdwatching. Gardening is also therapeutic – there is no little value in simply stepping outside of your door and breathing in fresh air!
But maybe you’re thinking, “I’ve heard all of this already. I don’t have time for hobbies – I only have time to drive my kids to their hobbies.” Fair enough. But the encouragement I can give you is to know that if you don’t make at least a little time for yourself, doing what you like just for you, it can really come back to bite you in the end.
Your hobby doesn’t need to be perfect, or even a complete project. My mother-in-law, a master crocheter, recently gifted us a blanket that took nearly thirty years to complete. I have one that took me over a year to finish because I would only pick it up to work on it in small little snippets of time on the weekends. It doesn’t really matter how long it takes, or even if you’re any good at it. If you’re not, who cares? It’s a hobby for you, not for anyone else!
No matter what you end up choosing, remember to just have fun with it!
Until next time, be well!
About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.